Saturday, February 21, 2009

U2 CD Leak – Blunder or PR Stunt?

The release of U2’s new CD, “No Line on the Horizon,” is planned for February 27. But it appears they have run into a bit of a SNAFU.

Someone at Universal Music, U2’s music publisher, accidentally put the CD up for sale on getmusic.com.au (the Australian site for Universal’s Get Music online music service) almost two weeks before the official release date. Not surprisingly someone purchased the CD before it was taken down and it wasn’t long before it appeared on peer-to-peer file sharing sites where people are now downloading it for free.

The fact is that most CDs are leaked before official release dates. Which raises the question: was this a blunder or a stunt by U2’s management to generate buzz and pre-empt other leaks to better control publicity around the release?

It’s more than a little suspect that U2’s music publisher “accidentally” posted the CD for sale two weeks before launch. And it has been five years since U2’s last CD (for many artists a dangerously long hiatus). On the other hand, U2 is one of the most recognizable and respected brands in the music business so they’re certainly not suffering from low awareness.

If a stunt, it was nowhere near as sophisticated as Radiohead’s pay-as-you-choose release of “In Rainbows” on its own Web site. Unsophisticated is very un-U2 and considering their strong stance against music piracy it’s likely that this was simply a mistake.

But the fact that it’s a week before the release and buzz is building and people are listening begs the question: when will music labels and publishers accept the future of music distribution and figure out a way to become relevant again?

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